MY CONNECTION TO PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Two sons were born to President and Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The first, Doud Dwight Eisenhower, was born on September 24, 1917. They affectionately called him “Little Icky”. He died of scarlet fever at the age of three, on January 2, 1921. The second son, and only child to survive to adulthood, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, was born in Denver, Colorado on August 3, 1922. On July 10 1947, John Eisenhower married the lovely Barbara Jean Thompson. The couple had four children: Dwight David Eisenhower II (the husband of Julie Nixon, daughter of President Richard M. Nixon), David was born on March 31, 1948; Barbara Anne, born May 30, 1949; Susan Elaine, born December 31, 1951; and Mary Jean, born December 21, 1955. There are eight Eisenhower great-grandchildren.
My friend is Mary Jean Eisenhower. I met her through a mutual friend, Annette Walker. Our connection is an organization headed by Mary called PEOPLE TO PEOPLE.
Mary Eisenhower is the CEO of People to People International (PIPI). The State Department until 1961 administered people to People, when it became a private nonprofit organization. People to People International and its nearly 250 chapters around the world extend humanitarian and educational assistance to needy or underdeveloped population groups. President Eisenhower the founder of the organization believed that private citizens reaching out in friendship to the people of other nations could make a significant contribution to world peace and understanding.
I received a call from my friend Annette Walker a couple of years ago that I will never forget. Annette said, “Greg I have a friend coming to town and I would like for you to pick her up from the Montgomery Airport.” I agreed to do it even before I knew that the passenger to be picked up was the granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I remembered seeing her on television as a bridesmaid in her brother, David’s wedding ceremony when he married President Richard M. Nixon’s daughter Julie. I drove my green van against the wishes of my dad. He wanted me to rent a limousine. When I told Mary about my dad’s wishes she almost died laughing. I had never met a more down to earth person. She was beautiful and wonderful. I know my grandparents probably never imagined that one day their grandson would be hanging out with President Eisenhower’s granddaughter. Mary told me that she had family in Prattville, Alabama that she would also be visiting. I had no idea that President Eisenhower had a brother that lives in Prattville. Mary said that her first cousin worked at the Belks in Prattville. I met them all.
Mary was so nice that I had to show her off. We stopped by my pastor’s house in prestigious Haardt Estates. Rev. Bennie Liggins was hosting his annual open house. In attendance were Dr. and Mrs. Joe Reed; Terry and Melinda Davis; my parents, Dr. and Mrs. Melvin J. Griffin Sr.; my wife and kids and many other members of my church, Community Congregational United Church of Christ. I introduced the President’s granddaughter to them all. Everyone was very happy to meet her.
Mary was driven through prestigious Haardt Estates. She was able to see the many fine homes that African Americans now have the pleasure to reside in. After the tour of Haardt Estates I drove her to her hotel. She had to rest a few minutes before speaking at our People to People Banquet. I had the honor of introducing her at the banquet.
Mary shared with me wonderful stories about her grandparents. I learned that President Eisenhower was responsible for the Interstate system in America. He signed the Interstate Highway Act in 1956. Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway Act (1956) provided for a 41,000-mile interstate highway system, the single largest public works program in American history. He was extremely talented at working with a Democratic controlled Congress.
Despite President Eisenhower’s less than impressive civil rights record, Martin Luther King like him. I have heard many people that were close to Martin Luther King Jr. say so. When President Eisenhower was on his deathbed King spoke fondly of the President.
President Eisenhower was a great man. I wish he could have been on the right side of the race issue more often as he was when he ordered the complete desegregation of the Armed Forces. He said, “There must be no second class citizens in this country.”
Well I liked Ike and I like Mary too!
Well the grapevine heard that wedding bells are coming to Cubie Ray Gilmer, the most eligible bachelorette in Montgomery. Who is she going to marry? Keep reading the grapevine and find out.
Greg Griffin is a free lance writer. You can read his previous articles by logging on to his web page at www.greggriffin.com